Wanaka – last, but certainly not least of the introductions to our newest parks. Characterised by four distinct seasons, a growing population, and an outdoors lifestyle, this popular town is a must-see in the Otago Region.
Early Otago Maori used the local passes in the area to reach the greenstone (pounamu) found on the West Coast. Nathaniel Chalmers is believed to be the first European to see Wanaka and the surrounding lakes in 1853.
From 1858, the gold rush in central Otago brought a huge demand for the timber around the lake, and then when gold was discovered in the Cardrona valley, many people settled in Wanaka and Albert Town. However many had left by the late 1870s to follow the major gold discoveries on the West Coast.
Up until 1940, Wanaka had, in fact, been named Pembroke. Nowadays the area is a thriving tourism resort nestled on the banks of Lake Wanaka and surrounded by the Mount Aspiring National Park.
Stay at Aspiring Holiday Park and Motels
With free unlimited Wi-Fi, spas, saunas and showers, undercover BBQ pavilion, carwash, courtesy coach and sun-protected playgrounds, it’s no wonder this beautiful park has a 4.5 star Qualmark rating! Your lovely hosts Richard, Annie and Lauren are happy to help you find accommodation for your budget and preferences, with plenty of options available – from motel rooms and cabins to powered sites and/or tent sites.
Visiting during winter? Keep warm with a free hot chocolate each morning while the friendly staff help book your mountain shuttle. During the warmer months, take advantage of the bike hire options or the short walk to the lake.
Things to do and see in Wanaka
Take advantage of the summer temperatures that can reach the high 20s (Celsius). Lake Wanaka’s clear, clean water is perfect for swimming, water skiing, wakeboarding, jet boating, fishing and kite surfing. The lake covers an area of 192 square kilometres, and is estimated to be around 300m deep.
Treble Cone, Cardrona Alpine Resort, Snow Park and Snow Farm are just some of the great snow-based activity choices in the National Park; many of them are premier commercial ski fields. Cardrona is popular amongst beginners and families, while the advanced rider is accommodated by Snow Park and its artificially created terrain. Wanaka is the favourite place to stay during ski season, so book early!
Other than snow sport, the Mount Aspiring National Park hosts a number of hiking, mountaineering and rock climbing destinations, perfect for day trips or spending up to a week or more away. A number of dedicated cycling and mountain biking tracks have been set up around the lake and surrounding pine forests. For mountain biking enthusiasts, don’t miss Deans Bank, the Melinda Ridge or the Lindis Peak tracks.
A number of festivals are held every year or biennially, including the International Airshow “Warbirds Over Wanaka”. The next show is in Easter 2016 and includes displays of military vehicles acrobatics, formation flying, helicopters and a number of rare planes.
Here for Christmas and the New Year? Check out the exciting music festival Rhythm and Alps, or if you’re visiting over the 21st–26th of April 2015, don’t miss the Festival of Colour, a festival full of exciting performances and exhibitions.
In the township itself, take your time and wander through the number of wonderful galleries, museums and boutique shops, such as the National Transport and Toy Museum, Gallery thirty three, Wanaka Lavender Farm, and Wanaka Wastebusters. For a truly “puzzling” experience, visit Stuart Landsborough’s Puzzling World – a collection of illusion rooms, set amongst a large open maze, puzzle centre, Roman toilets and other bizarre buildings.
They say great things come in small packages, and this is truly what Wanaka is all about. This humble area is full of fun and adventure, set amongst some of New Zealand’s most picturesque scenery. Have you visited Wanaka? Tell us about your wonderful experience in a comment below. We would love to hear from you!